Tips to Upgrade Your Optics

With prices coming down on handheld thermal-imaging cameras, even budget-minded sailors might consider adding these valuable safety tools to their sea bags.

Iris Innovations’ color palettes let you adjust to conditions: Red Hot is useful in emergencies.

Early January isn’t Puget Sound’s sweet spot, but when one is beholden to invitations to sail on other people’s boats, sometimes there’s no choice but to pack a few extra layers, a positive attitude, a piping-hot thermos and maybe something a little stiffer for après-sail time. So when an offer came to join some friends for an all-day outing that would involve a post-nightfall return (read: anytime after 1615 hours at 48 degrees north) to Seattle’s Shilshole Bay Marina, I packed my warmest gear and two FLIR handheld thermal-imaging cameras that I was testing, and I did my best to hoodwink myself into believing it wasn’t 27 degrees when we departed.

Flash-forward 12 frigid-­but-­fun hours and the sun had slipped below the Olympic Mountains as we were searching for a channel marker. I grabbed FLIR’s Ocean Scout 640 from my sea bag and, after adjusting color palettes, found the buoy just as things were getting frosty. Instantly, the mood thawed and conversation quickly pivoted to dinner, and a nip of Caribbean rum.

The desire to peer through the murk is as aged as the ancient mariner himself, and we modern cruisers are fortunate to live in times when off-the-shelf technology can significantly reduce the stress of nighttime navigation. While thermal-imaging cameras have historically been expensive, this equipment affords a huge amount of safety and situational awareness, both during daylight hours and on the graveyard watch. Upgrade Your Optics | Cruising World


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